A ROW has broken out over plans by a Romanian monk to found the first new monastery in the Hebrides for hundreds of years.
Father Seraphim Aldea is currently touring the US trying to raise £65,000 in donations to buy five acres of land on Mull.
He wants to situate the monastery next to remote Kilninian Parish Church, at Torloisk, a site with historic connections to Iona, where St Columba founded a monastery in 563.
On a US radio show, Fr Aldea said he was called by God to start a new chapter in the history of Orthodoxy in the Hebrides.
He said: “I want this to be a tiny monastic and missionary centre. God willing, in September, this autumn, I will be able to buy the piece of land.
“We have found a piece of land to buy but until September I must fund raise and must get £65,000 to buy it.”
Although Mull Community Council has no objection to the plan, neighbours are firmly opposed to the proposal to build the Orthodox Monastery of Saints Ninian and Cuthbert next to the abandoned Kilninian Parish Church.
Plans lodged with Argyll and Bute Council by the Romanian Orthodox Church in Scotland have attracted a dozen letters of objection.
Philip Crewdson, of The Shepherd’s House, Kilninian, said he did not believe the plan would bring any economic or social benefits to the island.
Mr Crewdson said: “I believe that, if permitted, and without very judicious safeguards, this development could well come to dominate, and even threaten, the existing community.”
Kilninian is part of the Loch na Keal National Scenic Area and opponents fear a modern monastery will spoil the area’s beauty and tranquillity.
They fear the local spring water supply will not cope with extra use and that the construction phase of the monastery will create access and parking problems.
The objection of neighbours Hugh and Jenny Ferris states: “To our knowledge there is no Romanian culture or population on the island and the applicant has made no case for a local need or benefit for the development.”
Michael Ireland, who lets out Kilninian Schoolhouse, next to the church, to holidaymakers, said: “The majority of guests come for peace and tranquillity of the location; the proposed development will have an adverse effect.”
David Woodhouse, who runs Isle of Mull Wildlife Expeditions from nearby Ulva Ferry, objects to the “bizarre concept” of an incongruous large modern building, in the form of a monastery, being built in the centre of a National Scenic Area. He added: “How out of keeping could such a building possibly be?”
Fr Seraphim, however, said: “We are not fundraising to build a palace. We had problems with our first architectural plans precisely because our monastic cells were too small. The long- term vision is that Kilninian will function as a monastery for nuns, and I shall be the monastery priest and father confessor.”